REVIEWS

Heartwarming And Hopeful, HOMESTAY Is Ultimately A Film About Acceptance And Forgiveness

8 July 2019

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Heartwarming And Hopeful, HOMESTAY Is Ultimately A Film About Acceptance And Forgiveness

A spirit wakes up suddenly in a hospital morgue, only to find himself stuck in the body of a troubled teen named Min. In the 100 days that he is forced to reside in this stranger’s body, he has to find out the reasons behind Min’s suicide attempt — or be doomed to a permanent death.

Director: Parkpoom Wongpoom

Year: 2018

Cast: Teeradon “James” Supapunpinyo, Cherprang Areekul, Suquan Bulakul, Roj Kwantham, Natthasit Kotimanuswanich, Saruda Kiatwarawut

Language: Thai

Runtime: 131 min

“You have gotten a prize,” says a disembodied voice amidst a psychedelic dreamscape. “And you need to leave, right now.”

Second chances are hard to get, but second chances at life are even more elusive, if not downright impossible to attain. For Homestay’s protagonist however, a second chance at life is exactly what he gets when he is told that he has received a big prize.

The film begins almost like a first-person horror game: after waking up abruptly in a hospital morgue, we follow the protagonist as he staggers, lost and confused, along the hospital hallways in search for the voice that had beckoned him back to life. After he falls down the hospital building and finds himself standing upright on the building walls in a physics-defying feat, someone known as the Guardian appears in front of him. 

The truth is finally revealed: the protagonist has earned the chance to live out someone else’s life. However, if he fails to solve the person’s cause of death within 100 days, he will face permanent death and be unable to reincarnate forever.

Homestay is the Thai adaptation of the Japanese novel Colourful, which follows a similar premise. However, while the Japanese title alludes to the different colours of the world and the people that reside within it, the Thai title of Homestay refers to something more rooted in the Buddhist concept of non-attachment — just like a homestay is temporary, everything in life will come and go eventually, including life itself. While this might seem slightly fatalistic, what it actually encourages is the need to live freely in order to fully engage in life. 

This concept plays out in different ways throughout the film. When the protagonist first begins to reside in Min’s (Teeradon “James” Supapunpinyo) body, he does make an attempt to figure out Min’s cause of death amidst varying factors. However, soon enough, he gets distracted by the lighter aspects of life — namely, his budding romance with his peer tutor Pi (Cherprang Areekul) — and he begins to indulge in this carefree manner of living. 

This also shows itself in the second half of the film. Following his discovery of Min’s suicide letter, he slowly uncovers the dark, sordid secrets that have been kept from him by the very people he loves most. The ephemeral nature of his stay allows him to lash out at them in ways that the old-Min had never done before, and it is through this outburst that he finally manages to free his repressed emotions and pent-up anger.

While this film seems to market itself as a fantasy-thriller, it is really more of a movie about second chances and moving on, and the fantasy aspect is merely there to set up the premise. There are a couple of flaws in the film, namely the overdone high school romance that drags out for too long and the odd nature of the Guardian, who seems to act more like a poltergeist determined to mock Min’s every attempt at an investigation than a helpful guardian guiding him through his discovery. It also runs a little long, and the ending could have been compacted a little more to pack a stronger punch. However, there are other aspects that the film gets right.

What I like most about this film is that even though the premise can easily lead down a dark path, the film instead chooses to go with a lighter approach. Min is not simply showcased as an angry, suicidal person — he is lively and humorous, easy to smile and affectionate towards people that he loves, and this disparity is played out perfectly by Bad Genius star James, who manages the transition from the happy-go-lucky teenager to the angry, repressed Min smoothly. 

The different characters in Min’s life are also presented as complex individuals who are struggling with life as much as Min is, and who have different facets and colours of their personalities just as any everyday person does — which is what the original Japanese title of Colourful intended. 

Homestay is ultimately a feel-good film that strives to find the simple joys in life. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective to accept not only yourself, but the people around you — and that might be enough to change things for the better. 

Watch the trailer for Homestay here:

 

somehow both a dreamer and realist at once; more articulate in the written word
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